Wednesday 7 May 2014

Semi 1 is over. Long live the semi

The time to blog is within reach again.
After a very casual and relaxed day in the apartment it is now time to actually do what I was assigned to do on this wonderful ESC trip to Copenhagen, namely write something that is worth reading and maybe even comment on. Since Tom write about the rehearsals (and do it so well) I have chosen to focus on what happens around the event itself, the parties and such.

We actually went to the first semifinal after scoring some late tickets and were seated in Lordisection on the top row among a bunch of other people wich was great fun to talk to and appreciate the show with. When the show started I must say I was blown away by the sheer size and amazing effects that has been put in to the stage here in Copenhagen.  A bird somewhere whispered that they were 42 million DKR over budget with the stage. 
Anyhoo... Our relationship with the Copenhagen bussystem still makes me both smile and cry a little. Of all the buses I have tried to catch, NONE has been on time and a few haven't even shown up so I am no longer relying on the phoneapp but just go to the busstop and wing it from there. As I sit in the press centre at the moment, getting to here was no problems. There will be a dressed rehearsal in about 20 minutes and Copenhagen had gone out of its way to get everyone to it with buses leaving all the time and with just a minute delay. Awesome. Even managed to get on the correct bus and actually got to be accompanied by the entire irish writingcrew (more or less). Nice bunch. 

What else... yeah, the ammount of selfies that are being taken here is nearing critical levels. I am actually thinking of starting to photobomb. Yes, I take them myself too, not the point, I wanna photobomb, that's the point. 

Soon time to enjoy the rehearsal so I have to go get some popcorn, chocolate and a big fat coke. See ya soon. :)

1st Dress Rehearsal - Semi Final 2 (Part 4)

And we have a recap now. My apologies but I needed to use the bathroom facilities - some of the songs in the last section were painful in more ways than one! Also, I need to see how many qualifiers I mentioned, I would say probably all of them. Will count later.

We come back from the recap and it's the time for Australia to shine - sausage eating, Fosters beer drinking Aussies. Apparently Australia keeps on begging to be in the show but since they are not in Europe they can't take part. Simple solution, attach Australia to a number of helicopters and fly it over. Dump it over Western Europe and then you will see that Australia basically is one of the few countries left to take part from that region.

A quick dance about Australia ensure, complete with topless surfer dude. It is quite amusing but I can see it getting quite old very quickly - Swedish Smörgåsbor it is not!

We then have Jessica Mauboy introduced on stage - singing a song which is better than many of those competing tonight. Good job Australia does not take part!

Onto the second recap of the night with the exit of the artist this time like we had for Semi 1.

With 5 minutes left to vote after the second recap, Nikolaj and Pilou inform about the #JoinUs dance competition that was created. The best 26 were invited to go on stage in Copenhagen and we see them perform with videos of others being shown on the background wall.

OK, so they have a sense of humour in Denmark it seems. Some of the acts are really good while others are ... not so much. It would be one of those acts on "*County* has Talent". Watch out for the old granny though - they tell you to watch out for the old ones!

Phone lines are nearly closed as Nikolaj and Pilou remind us, counting us down from 5 (so how people should have voted in the last bit we do not know).

Lise is in the Green Room in order to talk to the contestants gathered there. Speaking first to Lithuania and then Greece, Lise moves towards Tijana from Macedonia! We got that name on the show in the end. Unfortunately stand-in Tijana never said "darling" so she can't be the real thing. Finland is the last team to be talked to and we finish by being asked if we would like to see Softengine again on Saturday.

Eurovision record book again - and this time Longest Note - to which puzzled faces perk up since "Didn't we have that already?" Maybe they did change it for the live show. And after asking it seems in fact it is not in the live show of Tuesday.

Lise still in the Green Room and we are now talking to "Kasey" from Ireland who does not seem to talk much so swiftly on to "Cleo" from Poland. Conchita is Lise's match on the Eurovision Matchmaking app. "Conchita" seems to have lost the beard and gained a few pounds. OK, I'm bored of this now. NEXT!

And as if they were listening to me we finally stop that messy section and now go to the preview of the Big 5 and Denmark.

Preview over, we go to talk to Jon Ola Sand as is the tradition. Lise interrogates Jon Ola about the votes being in on time since apparently they have not been for three out of four years. Well, pot, kettle and black comes to mind when we talk about Copenhagen and things being on time... and that is enough of that!

Announcement time and the qualifiers are:
FYR Macedonia

And finally...


Mei is OUT! OMG! Gays across Europe are devastated! How did that strut fail to ensure a qualification?! Oh wait, it's a run through that's why.

As we saw from the rehearsal of semi 1, the recap is in appearance rather than announcement. Even the recap of the qualifiers manages to mess up Romania. It seems that there are signs from above that this is not going to be a good year for them. Oh well, I'm sure it will do fine on the night ... *cough*

And once more, nothing left to say but "Good Night Europe!"

And we are off, enjoying yet another semi-final of our beloved Contest. Before you know it we will have our following 10 qualifiers and Saturday night will be knocking on our doors. Only few more sleeps left!

1st Dress Rehearsal - Semi Final 2 (Part 3)

Freaky Fortune and Risky Kidd also went to the beach. They put down a blue beach towel and collect shells in order to place them on top - forming the Greek banner. Nikolas then is lifted up by the other two in order to take the picture from above.

Nikolas is struggling on the vocals but the song allows for some errors of tone. Large cheer in the arena but a bit muted in the press hall. Qualifier.

Tinkara is in a library placing various books whose spine are in the white, blue and red colours. She then places a placard of the Slovenian coat of arms in the correct corner and takes the picture.

I still stand by my wild prediction of seeing Tinkara in the final. She has a good voice, good staging, reasonable odds on her side (only five need to be worse on the night) and she has not made any major mistakes from what we've seen of her. She is still in her blue frock and camera angles are working. Qualifying.

Our last song has an issue, there was no postcard to begin with and then the music started without either Paula or Ovi being aware (well, Ovi doesn't always know what's going on so that's not such a shock). After quite a bit of waiting we are back and we finally see the last postcard. Paula and Ovi are next to a lake and they are hooking up some items. Night falls and you realise that they had set up to light off fireworks into the sky. The fireworks are in the Romanian colours and a picture of the reflection of the colours on the lake water is taken.

Ovi didn't find his cue and missed the start of the song but after a slight hiccup got back into it. Paula is professional as always. She is saving herself for the giant note but does sing it well even though in a slightly lower key than we are used to. Another big applause in the arena while the press is lacklustre at best. Could this be the first time Romania does not qualify? If this does not find help and soon I would dare to say it might.

Lise comes on the screen in order to sell the CD and DVD again and then Nikolaj and Pilou remind us of the voting once more.

1st Dress Rehearsal - Semi Final 2 (Part 2)

Lise wants to "thank all you handsome men for coming out!" They seem to be on a roll with these jokes in Scandinavia.

For those who have not seen the postcard on youtube yet, Conchita is in a theatre and has numerous red and white dresses which she starts hanging from a three-tiered clothes hanger. She puts the red ones on top and bottom and white in the middle forming the Austrian colours.

Would be interested to know if Russia, Belarus and Armenia Ukraine (updated after reading comment below, thank you very much) will be broadcasting this or if they will have technical issues. Good to see Azerbaijan has not been involved in the talks about this topic. Good old Catholic nations it is again then. But moving on, Conchita is amazingly lit and the revelation of the bearded lady brings shivers. As does her rendition of the song, even though there were a couple of bad notes there. Biggest applause in the press are yet. Qualifying - unless there is some serious injustice in this world and contest. 

Vilija decided to go to the main square in Vilnius for her picture. She is with a number of people who are holding umbrellas even though it seems quite a sunny day (yes, we're surprised too!). The group opens their brollies which are, as you may have guessed, yellow, green and red.

You all know what Vilija and crew are wearing so it won't come as a shock. Vocally not great and quite shouty but there is enough noise going on in the background to make it sound correct. And if that was not enough, you've got so many things to distract you the song is one of the last things you notice. I would say this should not qualify based on merit but as usual, Lithuania is not necessarily stopped just because they have a bad song. Undecided.

Another postcard which has been available on the internet for a few days now. The boys of Softengine are taken to the frozen seas of Finland and do a bit of ice-sawing. A bit of treatment some of the ice block and some careful placing of them on top of each other reveal the Finnish cross.

They are still as smiley and happy as ever but as mentioned before, they don't really need to be. I would hate to have to be their manager but I guess you take what you can. And maybe I judge them too badly, who knows what they are like in private, away from the gaggle of 'journalists' they encounter here at Eurovision. They perform the song well and there does not seem to be any issues with notes - well, unless you include the screeching as a note, then there could be one there. Qualifier.

And it's balloons for Ireland. Helium-filled ones. Kasey and the team are in a grand looking room having fun filling up the balloons with helium. They let them go once filled and they float to the ceiling. A number of them are needed but before you know it, the ceiling is full of green, white and gold balloons. The final golden one goes a bit astray and ends up in the middle of the white so it's Kasey who has to go up a ladder and place it where it should be. Back to the floor, Kasey takes the picture.

Vocally not strong, but Kasey is looking into the camera more. Visually quite ok if you ask me, people at home are used to expect a bit of random mess by now when watching Eurovision. People also commented about the dancers, but would you be able to have an Irish tune without the dancing? Ok, probably yes, but I see no harm in them being there. You never know, Lithuania is there, Poland is there, UK is there... I put my neck out and say Qualified.

Teo is taken to an ice-rink and directs an ice cleaning truck to reverse onto the ice. Hundreds (I guess) of hockey pucs are deposited on the ice - one side black while the other a possible red or green. Teo spends time putting each one the right way up in order to reveal the colour and also carefully places them on the ice in order to reveal the Belarussian flag.

Well, I'm slightly tired of listening to cheesecake also but he sings it well and Europe is open to this music.

FYR Macedonia
And another lovely postcard from darling Tijana! A cello is hooked up to a sound machine which vibrates a red film on which bright yellow sand was poured. Tijana starts playing the chello, making the sand bounce and form sound formations on the film. Looking for the correct note she finally finds it and the sand creates the sunburst motif of Skopje. Different to other artists, its is a lab camera which is used in order to take the picture.

Vocally unfortunately a bit weak in this performance. The presentation has not changed much since the first rehearsals. Not always sure what we're supposed to be seeing but the charisma of Tijana both on and off stage makes me warm to her. I would love this to go to the final but watching this today I am not sure I can say it will. With a heavy heart I must say Not Qualifying.

And it's domino's for Switzerland. Many of them to be precise. Sebastiano places them carefully in order, accidentally knocking some of them down. After what must have been quite some work, he finishes his task, and continues to knock one of them down - revealing that some of them had a white back to them forming the Swiss cross.

Vocally doing well and enjoying the stage - and utilising it well. I don't think Malta and Switzerland will need to share votes, and this should see themselves doing reasonably good. Can't remember how many I said would qualify, but I would say this is borderline. Could qualify but could also just miss out.

1st Dress Rehearsal - Semi Final 2 (Part 1)

And we start, back for another adventure in the bubble known as Eurovision.

We start with a dramatic clip of the first semi final reminding the people at home who watched it what went on and to warn those who are about to see their first show of what to expect.

We are then taken on a journey with a little boy in a car (are we in Belgium?!) and go around to see bits of Copenhagen. We start to see the cubes which are prominent on the stage also appear in the street - the street that leads to the B&W Hallarne - a very tarted up version of it anyway, looks nothing like that really. We follow a group of people into the hall and get greeted by a violinist on stage in a box.

But there is a surprise, from behind the boxes (there are three of them) three huge dancers appear and pick up the boxes which contain the small statured violinist, and dancers. These end up disappearing (it's all an effect) and the introduction dance proper begins.

After the dance routine we get welcomed to the Eurovision Song Contest and the presenters are introduced on stage. They are again, Nikolaj, Lise and Pilou. Australia gets a mention since they do not take no for an answer and have finally become part of the show - cue the couple of guys cooking on a barbie with a hand held sign saying "Cheers Mate". The presenters are making it sound like Australia is actually taking part - which obviously it is not.

As in semi 1, we get informed of how to vote since apparently someone alive still doesn't know how.

And we're soon to start!

The postcard sees the group heading down towards the beach with a large metal plank. They start attaching small fireworks to it which is a huge tradition back on the island. They wait until dark falls and light them up - which when lit, glow in the colours of the Maltese nation.

The group didn't go for any fancy costume and could easily be seen wearing this down the road when going about their daily business. Vocally doing well and enjoying their time on stage. The selfies are seen nicely and the lighting working well with the tempo of the song. A muted applause in the press area but there is not that many people here. Qualifier.
Another act which has chosen to take their picture next to the sea, this time courtesy of the Dead Sea. Sticks are placed in the sand and two blue separators put above and below. A plastic Star of David is hung from the top one and the picture taken with the white salt of the sea in the background.

Mei is wearing a fabulous black number and is singing very well - belting that tune out. The crouching is definitely working better than the lying on the floor was. Working very well on camera, and the catwalk use at the end just adds to the attraction of the song. Big applause in the room but many Israelis here. Another qualifier.

Carl is cutting glass for his flag making. After carefully cutting the coloured pieces he places them in a white holder (probably made of styrofoam) and takes the picture.

You can't really criticize Carl, he sings the song so lovely but could this be another Belgium? Granted the staging and the song in general are much stronger than the Belgian entry but how many people at home would vote for him? I am sure he would be one of the artists who would appreciate the final most since he is quite new to this and has no ounce of pretentiousness about himself. Unsure.

Georgian do what Georgians do best - they go have a winefest! And by "fest" I don't mean they invited a load of people, no, it's just them having a massive wine intake session. They pour out untold number of glasses of red wine and place them on the very lightly creamish tiled ground. When seen from above, you notice they have created the Georgian flag and take a pic.

Mariko is dressed in green while the parachuting dancer is in black. I never thought I would be writing this but it's not as bad as I remembered it - could be the copious amounts of liquids I've been consuming the past few nights. Don't believe it will make it.

Cleo is in a recording studio and is singing notes. Her voice is seen as white sound waves while the rest of the track is a red background. Once she reaches the note Donatan wants, he signals it is ok and she goes into the studio to see for herself. We then take a picture of the bottom part of the sound wave with the red background making up the lower half of the flag.

Vocally it is not sounding as good as it had been but there is still enough butter churning and clothes washing and Slavic twirling for me to get in a fluster about it. Perhaps all the fuss about it has worked very well and has made Europe take notice? There have been quite a few entries which have qualified despite the bad sound emitted by their singer, ok, depends if we're talking Nonstop vocals here since then there is no hope but thankfully we are not. Could be a surprise qualifier!

Nicolaj then introduces the first break of tonight. We then go to the first record - Most Claps!

Lise and Pilou greet us at the end of the first record and we are off to the second part of the show!

Best wine ever?

Belgian reactions on Axel Hirsoux not qualifying.

On VRT's own newswebsite, one of their reporters went to Leuven this morning to ask people how they felt about Axel Hirsoux not qualifying from yesterday's semi final.

If you understand dutch or flemish follow this link.

If not, we've uploaded it to YT and added subtitles.

We love the reaction of one woman in particular and are agreeing with the bald gent towards the end.